South Africa celebrates National Women’s Day on the 9th of August each year. The day commemorates a protest march against injustice, undertaken by approximately 20 000 women in 1956. The original march was both successful and significant in terms of South Africa’s history. Unfortunately, injustice and stigmatisation continue to haunt the lives of many women both in this country and globally. In honour of Women’s Day, I thought to frame this health post in the context of the march and the significance of women globally. This is a: a wholehearted health journey not only to success, but beyond to significance.
Women Are Carers: But Do They Care For Themselves?
Women are generally much better carers than men, they are ‘hardwired’ to care for others. Stats SA report that single moms head most South African households and US data reveals that 82% of single parents are women. But how good are women at caring for themselves? Not all that good, if the research that points to about 70% of South African women being overweight or obese is anything to go by. And being overweight is only just one aspect of women’s health. All of us – male and female – are much more than just our physical shape and yet body shape dominates the thinking and discourse of so many, especially women. Physical health is important, but so too are intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual health. Each of these interdependent elements contribute to wholehearted health.
Fear, Guilt & Shame: The ‘Unholy’ Threesome
Unfortunately, many see certain chronic conditions, such as being overweight or obese, in the light of ‘blame and shame’ culture. This happens despite overwhelming evidence that obesity is about physiology (insulin dysfunction) and not psychology (lack of will power).
In obesity, the principle themes of stigmatisation experienced is the feeling of being blamed for being overweight; of being the butt of misplaced attempts at ‘humour’ and being the subject of negative stereotyping. Often overweight and obese people are discriminated against in the work place or in relationships – all of which provides fertile soil for debilitating psychological distress.
If we mistakenly accept that being overweight or obese is our fault, i.e. the results of a lack of self-control (gluttony) or a lack of exercise (sloth) then we open the door to fear, guilt and shame. And when we open the door to these impostors, we allow them to bring into our lives their prized possession of self-condemnation. Self-condemnation is one of the most destructive habits affecting many people who have tried to modify lifestyle their behaviours and have fallen short of this goal. Self-condemnation is the internal ‘voice’ that tells us things like:
‘You’re not good enough; you’re an unattractive and weak fat slob, or you’ve failed in the past so what makes you think this time will be any different’
3 Tips to Overcoming Self-Condemnation
- Accept that this self-condemned person is not who you really are. Your weight or body shape does not define you as a person let alone as a woman.
- Self-condemnation is not conscience. You may be convicted that you need to modify your lifestyle and lose weight, but that happens in the space where self-condemnation has no place. Condemnation and conviction (or conscience) is not one and the same thing. The former is negative and the latter positive.
- Make a conscious effort to banish fear, guilt and shame from your lexicon of thoughts, feelings and emotions. Fill that previously destructive space with affirmation and try each day to say gentle and loving things to yourself.
Remember you are a precious woman loved by God……no matter what shape you’re in.
Success Is Not Enough, Significance Is
If you are on the road to a healthy lifestyle, then you are able to claim a measure of success and this is good. However, success is not enough because it generally has a limited lifespan. Also, success is generally an individual experience, i.e. we experience success in our own right. Significance allows us to touch the lives of others and it has the added benefit of outliving us. Bob Buford understood this prompting him to write his bestselling book, ‘Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance’.
If your journey to wholehearted health is successful then you are ideally positioned to turn your success into a journey of significance by sowing, encouraging and empowering others to improve their self-care capacity into the lives of others and giving them HOPE, which is an acronym for:
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, most women have been given the gift of being able to care for others. As you celebrate Women’s Day and the days thereafter, I encourage you to self-care your way to wholehearted health. Then turn your success into significance. As someone once said,
‘One is too small a number to be significant’.
I’m Dr Peter Hill for UpForIt.